Are You Ready for the New NIH Payment Management System?

imagesNot the NIH, Not Again. (Sigh.)

You’ll have to forgive me, I know there is more to research administration than the NIH. (DOD, anyone? NSF?) It’s not that I choose to ignore the rest of the agencies out there funding the Federal share of academic research….really. It’s just that the NIH is in many ways, the canary in the coal mine for new policy at the Federal level. So I figure it’s going to be helpful to more than those of us working in the biomedical research area to talk about some of these issues.

The August Freak Out

In August and September 2013, NIH announced that their grants management systems would transition awardees to a new payment management process in order to allow the agency and their institutes and centers to better track award spending. They provided some preliminary details – enough to make every central office at every university with NIH funding to freak out – how is this going to work? Subsequent communications clarified the process, which have allowed schools to prepare and plan.

changeImplementation in Two Phases

The transition from PMS pooled (G) accounts to PMS (P) sub-accounts will occur over two fiscal years, and it started in October of 2013. There is an excellent FAQ on the transition, which will occur in two phases.

  • Phase 1 – Effective October 2013: Transition of Awards with New Document Number
  • Phase 2 – Effective October 2014: Transition of Continuing Domestic Awards

The notice of grant award will contain additional information to indicate the type of account (G to P) that is being used to award the funds in the transition year. The transition year will require a new award type (Type 4) and administratively shortened segments – for competitive awards in FY14 and FY 15.

Financial reporting requirements will be affected during these changes (there will be additional closing periods) and the reporting requirements for awards will be affected by whether or not the award was made under SNAP (now RPPR). During the transition, it looks like non-competing continuations under SNAP may need to submit two FFRs in FY14.

Importantly – carryover authority is not automatically available during this time frame. Grantees will report unobligated balances and receive approval for these funds to be re-obligated to the new sub-account. NIH states that even if the award was issued with “automatic carryover authority” the grantee has to receive approval through a new NOGA before funds are drawn down.

What You Need to Do Right Now

Review your award portfolio and take steps to ensure awards are appropriately charged for direct costs up front, reducing the need for cost transfers. This saves time, heightens compliance and allows your institution to meet the challenge of shortened reporting time frames.

  1. How many awards are under SNAP? How many are not under SNAP? (This will affect the calculation of your unliquidated obligations and unobligated balances – which, in this new world of payment management should be minimal.)
  2. What are their project dates, and how are they looking financially? (Are all expenses hitting the project in a timely manner?) If not, why not?
  3. What systems are in place to ensure direct charging of appropriate expenses (salary and non-salary) to awards, and reconciling expenses on a monthly basis? If these systems don’t yet exist, what needs to be done to set them up?
  4. Is there a process to regularly meet with investigators to review award activity and plan for changes in allocation of expenses proactively (to prevent cost transfers)?
  5. What reporting and queries can you utilize to easily manage your portfolio and provide updates to your investigators?
  6. Start to develop great relationships with your subcontract sites now – if you haven’t already. You’ll need to have them generate their final invoices faster than they have in the past.

What Your Investigators Need to Know

money-under-mattress-300x217We all know PI’s who think of Federal grants like funds stuffed between a mattress for a rainy day. Yet for every investigator who thinks like that, there are two that understand and have a very keen appreciation for managing awards. However, the new payment management system, combined with the shortened time frame for closing out awards is creating a new environment for managing sponsored funds.  We have to impress upon our most studious investigators that if they do not use their Federal funding, they will lose it.

This is the time when we can help our investigators by providing administrative leadership:

  • Clearly outlining what our investigators need to know about the policy and how we need to work with them to administer their projects.
  • Providing them with financial information regularly so they can make decisions about their research plan and strategy (and we can ensure administrative actions regarding purchasing, effort and salary administration and reimbursements are managed in a timely manner).
  • Updating our investigators regarding policy changes and trends in the availability of carry forward funds, additional reporting requirements, and other trends to assist them in managing their current awards and planning for new applications.

The Department of Defense already has a strong payment management system in place, but it stands to reason that the Department of Health and Human Services, and other federal agencies will look to adopt more stringent monitoring of federal grants. Have you seen the Do Not Pay website? The Obama administration, in creating a government that utilizes data and analytics to generate accountability, is creating a network of systems to ensure that funds are distributed, tracked and paid to the proper recipients.

One Part Challenge, Two Parts Opportunity

To be sure, the next 18 months aren’t going to be easy – but working together we’ll transition to the new payment management system. More importantly – it’s an opportunity to introduce new ways of managing sponsored projects that can remain in place to meet the challenges of tighter Federal funding in the future.

The Fallout from October Has Just Begun: Here’s What You Need to Know

United States Capitol BuildingSHUTDOWN FALLOUT

Congress has opened its doors for business again after a two-week political roller coaster ride. The impact of this legislative hissy fit, however is still being assessed. While the media has focused on the patients in Washington DC that weren’t registered for trials at the NIH (truly a heartache) and the researchers in Antarctica and other extreme climes, research administrators have feverishly worked to meet a crushing load of November application deadlines.

In addition, research administrators and faculty have worked to assess the impact of missed application reviews on previous submissions from the last cycle, and how this will impact the upcoming review schedules. Meetings for 200 review committees scheduled for October at the NIH were canceled during the shutdown, and the impact of rescheduling these meetings (and therefore bumping the schedule of awarding these grants and holding future reviews for the upcoming cycle) is breathtakingly frightening for academic institutions across the country. Fortunately reviewers stepped forward and have volunteered to make time to participate (as institutions like the NIH originally announced revised schedules several months out, causing widespread alarm). NIH reviews are resuming in January instead of May.

NEW PAYMENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM AT NIH

As if the shutdown didn’t give us enough excitement to manage, we are looking to the new NIH payment images (1)management system which is going into effect as we speak. The new payment management system is a process that accomplishes 2 things. First, it allows the NIH to transition current domestic awards from PMS pooled accounts (type G) to a new type of account called a PMS type G subaccount. Second, it will allow the NIH to award all new grants and contracts as the PMS type G subaccount and allow the agency to administer all awards with new payment management rules.

Starting in November, notices of award will list the type of award (type P or G). To facilitate the transfer process, the NIH will transfer new awards into the new PMS system in FY14 (which has already started. In FY15, the NIH will transfer continuing awards.

hound dogSome changes to the management of awards and closeouts have already taken place, and if you don’t know about them, you should:

1. Depending on your institution’s standard operating procedures, the NIH policy previously afforded additional time for reconciling and closing out the award before completing the annual or final financial report. The new policy requires that awards be ready for closeout at the end of the award period for a prompt production of the annual or final financial report. If your expenses have not hit the proper account when they were supposed to, you will not have enough time to fix it at the end of the budget period or award period.

2. As awards shift from the old to the new payment system, competitive segments will be shortened for one year and new awards will be given new identifiers on the NOA. Get ready for some fancy footwork – tracking and reporting on these awards will be F-U-N.

3. Prepare to bid goodbye to unliquidated obligations from previous award segments/periods. Either encumber funds, and use them, or plan to lose them at the end of the budget period. PERIOD. The new FFR format calls out the unexpended balance from prior project period right up front. (They might as well call it “funds to cut from this project budget”).

4. Automatic carry forward can be requested – but funds are not permitted to be drawn down until they are formally approved and appear on the new NOA. (Read between the lines: carry forward isn’t so automatic anymore.)

These new requirements require a laser focus on direct charging salary to sponsored projects, and encumbering salary and project expenses appropriately to awards. Research administrators need to reconcile projects on a monthly basis to ensure that charges are hitting correctly to have the grants and contracts awarded to their investigators managed to a successful close.

AN END TO SEQUESTRATION?

Congress is talking now about how they will come together in January to pass a budget – and believe it or not, they are talking about adjusting the terms of the sequester. It’s hard to believe that sequestration is back on the table (for more information about sequestration, check out my previous post). Everyone seems to agree that the across-the-board cuts have been a disaster, but, as you can guess, nobody in Congress agrees on a way to restore cuts in a fashion that can be voted on to pass in both the House and the Senate. (Does this sound familiar?) While it would be fantastic to have improvements in sequestration funding, and there appears to be bi-partisan support for doing so, this seems to be linked to passing a budget in January, and if that is the case, I’d put money on the likelihood of another government shutdown.

The DOD would be a likely target for increased funding (relief of sequestration) but its hard to tell how the NSF, NIH, FDA or other agencies would fare given the history of divisiveness that exists.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  1. Assess your investigators’ research portfolios now; analyze your investigators’ salary and effort plans using the proposed data and effort certified to project out their current commitments if you haven’t already done this.
  2. Analyze the salary and effort of staff in the laboratories or on the projects that your investigators support.
  3. Assess the status of your investigators’ applications, if possible, to know where they are in the pipeline. Create a projection based on likelihood of funding, planned applications and current funding.
  4. Work with faculty and staff to assess potential gaps in funding for your faculty and staff. Begin to plan and request appropriate resources to cover faculty and staff salary and research during any time when the faculty member is not covered by sponsored funding.
  5. Create a budget and plan to support the request, and work with the faculty member and his/her department to request support.
  6. Assess institutional resources available to submit new applications early – should it be that we face additional gridlock in DC. Plan with your investigators to do this, if possible. (Adios, December!)
  7. Keep an eye on DC politics – and hope that this time around it’s not as bad. (Check out these resources from my previous post.)

By using our unique resources and perspective, we can help our institutions support the faculty and staff that are performing research in a wide variety of fields that make our world a better place to live. This is a really tough time, and we need to step up and make it possible for the research community to concentrate on their work – and not on the political struggles in Washington.

Justification Nation – Part 2: Supporting Research Personnel: Budgeting Salary and Fringe on Research Grants

scientists working at the laboratoryBudgeting Salaries and Fringe for Faculty and Staff

Sounds deceptively simple, doesn’t it? On most research proposals, personnel costs range from 60-70%. Budgeting and justifying personnel is extremely important and in principle, comes down to a few key issues:

Are the right faculty and staff on the proposal? Does the project have the right leadership?

Are the personnel on the proposal performing the right work?

Are the personnel on the proposal performing the right work for a reasonable estimate of time?

Fortunately, the choice of faculty and staff isn’t up to the research administrator. The PI will select his or her collaborators to achieve the scientific aims and enhance his or her chances of getting funded. But let’s face it. It’s a good thing we’re working on the budget – because there isn’t a PI on the planet that really understands how people are paid (or what they really make). Double and triple checking this information is key to submitting an accurate budget that covers the University’s actual personnel costs. If the proposal is awarded, the salary had better be calculated correctly, proposed with the proper person-months of effort, contain summer salary if the faculty member has a nine-month appointment, and justify the VA commitment if it exists.  Not so simple after all.

Budgeting Salary and Effort on Sponsored Projects

It’s important to start with the FOA – and any requirements from the sponsor. Is there a required amount of effort from the PI, or any others on the proposal? For grantsmanship, you’ll find that for most federal proposals, the PI will have to give at least 15-25%. (1.80 to 3.0 person months)

Who else is essential for the project? What levels of effort will they be working? Note that most PI’s think in levels of effort – you can convert to person months when you are done tweaking the budget. Outline each role for each person on the application. What will they be doing for the level of effort the PI has given them? Discuss with the PI that  20% time is one day a week, 10% time is 1/2 day a week, for that level of effort, how will the PI justify that much time on a sponsored project? Push for detail.

Draft the budget justification based on this information – and then look at the numbers and see where you end up – and edit from there. That’s how the process works. There are a couple of important things to be aware of as you write the document, which I’ll outline below.

General Budget Justification Format for Personnel with Salary and Fringe

Henry Smith, Ph.D., P.I. (1.8 calendar months), will serve as PI and Project Director on this project.  Professor of Pathology at Superb University and an HHMI investigator, he has researched nanostructures extensively, and has over 25 years of highly regarded work in the field.  He will have overall responsibility for all aspects of the project, supervise lab personnel working on experiments and will be responsible for organizing and chairing meetings of the advisory committee. In addition, he will be serving as the lead investigator of the microbiology core.

Looking for ways to justify a person or item on your justification? Google it! Someone else has faced the same problem, I guarantee it.

Justifying Faculty and Staff Fringe Rates

Your institution’s F&A agreement also contains the approved fringe rates for all employees. Be sure to use the correct fringe rates for each type of faculty and staff member, depending on their appointment. Most universities require a standard template to be used in the justification.

Remember to Inflate Salaries, Blend Fringe and Use the Cap only When Needed

In these economic times, institutions are ensuring that every salary dollar is proposed on the application – that means using the formula that factors in a salary increase each year, blends the fringe rate across each project year and only uses the salary cap on projects where it is required. Ensure that you include your inflation factors in your budget justification.

TipsA research administrator who is beginning the budgeting process should be prepared for several common questions that may arise, depending on the level of experience that the PI and project staff have with project planning and budgeting. Awareness of these potential concerns can prevent misunderstandings and assist in decision making.

1. Limit the distribution of salary information. Plan to limit distribution of salary information to as few people as possible during the budgeting process, especially during the budgeting of salary on the project. Faculty and staff may not know one another’s salary information if they have not budgeted many grants together. If salary information has to be distributed, hiding the base salary column may be recommended, you can check.

2. Beware of language in your justification that commits cost sharing. If your PI or any personnel for that matter are “contributing services” you need to write about their work in a way that does not specify exactly what they will do or how much time they will give. That’s voluntary committed cost sharing, and it happens all the time. Beware!

3. Understand the basis of a faculty or staff member’s appointment before moving forward with budgeting them on the proposal. Alert the PI if there is a problem with how the PI is proposing them on the application. The faculty or staff member must have an appointment that is consistent with how they are proposed on the application; they should have salary at the institution (versus an affiliate), or be eligible to receive a stipend versus salary and fringe. If there is some discrepancy, it can be corrected at the time of the application, instead of trying to fix a problem downstream at the time of the award (when the budget won’t allow for an increase).

4. Keep in mind that in most cases, stipends are for students or trainees receiving an education benefit from participating in the grant. Investigators are occasionally inclined to propose paying stipends for employees – instead of trainees. Consult your HR guidelines, and the FOA for more information.

5. Similarly, even seasoned investigators propose hiring colleagues on a proposal as a consultant. There are specific rules as to the type of personnel who can fulfill a consultant role. In a majority of cases, the role is fulfilled by an individual from outside the institution who is using their own resources and providing a specific expertise that is essential to the project. This individual does not contribute to the direction of the scientific work of the study.

These are general guidelines for budgeting salary and fringe on sponsored projects – it’s impossible to be specific for each type of application. For specific questions about types of applications there are excellent websites for federal agencies – and you can reach out to experienced research administrators for help.

NEXT: MORE ABOUT BUDGETING FACULTY AND STAFF, AND BUDGETING TRAINEES

Justification Nation – Part 1: Why Do We Write Budget Justifications in the First Place?

images (1)I love writing budget justifications – LOVE them. It’s easy to think that the budget justification should be written last, when the proposal is almost done. But if you do that, you’re minimizing the strategic importance of the budget justification’s ability to reinforce the aims of a scientific proposal. A well written justification supports the science – and shows that the investigator has a reasonable and realistic plan to achieve their aims. A scientist with his or her “budgetary” wet finger in the air is unlikely to get funded, no matter how fabulous the idea.

A savvy research administrator will help his or her PI by outlining the budget justification (along with the budget) as the research plan is taking shape and the subcontracts are coming together – to ensure that everything the PI wants to do is feasible according to Federal cost principles, the funding announcement requirements, the agency’s general requirements and any institutional policies that govern the PI’s activities.

The Budget Justification is a Road Map for How the Project Will be Conducted

If the budget were separated from the proposal, a reviewer should have all the information he or she needs to evaluate the financial resources needed to support a project from the budget justification. It is the only document in the application that maps how the scientific aims of the project relate to the resources needed to successfully execute the work. When I draft a budget justification for a PI, I picture myself much as a lawyer would make a closing argument in a courtroom in front of a judge and jury – here’s where I’m clearly and succinctly presenting the case for my client, in plain language, based on the rule of law. (And I plan on winning the case!)

The Basis for Budget Justifications

  1. To provide documentation regarding the basis for budget calculations and documentation of project costs.
  2. To establish compliance with federal grants management policy and cost principles.
    • Allowability, allocability, reasonableness, and consistency.
  3. To demonstrate that the proposed research meets the specific announcement requirements.
  4. To demonstrate compliance with specific agency regulations or policies.
    • Ex: Documentation of summer salary for NSF vs. NIH summer months; charging salary at the NIH cap
  5. To document institutional processes, policies or standards.
    • Providing template language for the basis of faculty appointments, cost sharing language, etc.

This material is the foundation for budget justifications – everything else is added once these elements are fully established.

Planning Your Budget and Budget Justification

The next step is to ask the following questions:

  • What type of budget justification do you need? (Detailed or Modular?)
  • Will you be constructing draft budgets and draft justifications for subcontractors or consultants?
  • How many personnel will be participating on the project, and what type of personnel will there be?
  1. Faculty
  2. Staff
  3. Post-docs
  4. Research Staff
  5. Students

What type of expenses will this project have?

  1. Equipment
  2. Services
  3. Supplies
  4. Consultants
  5. Other Costs

When you and your PI have discussed the research plan and mapped that against the planned budget, you can begin to outline the budget justification. You’ll have to make some assumptions at first, but your PI will be able to refine your work as you review drafts together.

COMING UP NEXT: JUSTIFICATION NATION – HOW TO JUSTIFY PERSONNEL

Which Comes First? Business Administration or Research Administration?

FORTUNATELY, THE CHICKEN AND EGG QUESTION HAS BEEN DEFINITIVELY ADDRESSED BY SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH.

You might think that we’d start off this discussion of research and business administration with a metaphor that has no actual scientific answer – and I’m happy to say that we seem to know which came first. The chicken.

So can we answer the question at hand – business administration or research administration? Which comes first? I think we can.

Research administrators cannot operate successfully in the world of academics and medicine without business administrators first performing their essential responsibilities. It’s that simple. Business administration comes first. It is true that there are complex and close interactions, but at the end of the day, when it comes down to it, in order for research administrators to do their jobs successfully, business administrators first have to do their work well.

EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THIS HYPOTHESIS:

  1. Faculty appointments and position funding are the responsibility of business administrators, and managed jointly with research administrators due to their impact on effort reporting and sponsored research compliance.
  2. Business administrators manage department accounts that cover “over the cap” salary cost-sharing, the portion of administrative time that PI’s cannot cover on grants, the funds that are available to cover research staff who are not fully funded on grants. Without business administrators managing department funds successfully (and these days, carefully) investigators could not keep staff employed and research administrators would not be able to manage sponsored projects successfully.
  3. The process of ordering and accepting supplies, equipment and services is a business administration function that impacts sponsored research. Business administration staff often consult with research administration to check on an order placed by a lab tech or a research assistant to make sure that the costs are being allocated correctly, but these business staff are directing the purchasing process in order for the research administration team to later reconcile the purchases with the investigator.

While these processes are intricately related, we know now that – like the chicken and the egg – one is  present before the other. It is also important to realize that, like the chicken and the egg, business administrators and research administrators need to support and work together to ensure a successful outcome.

Controlling the burn rate on sponsored projects: can you stop an inferno before it starts?

Commit to Eliminating Voluntary Cost Sharing!

There is a reason why the rate a project spends its funds is called a “burn rate.” Once a sponsored project is funded and the award starts to spend research dollars, there appear to be an infinite number of decisions regarding how those dollars are spent, and even though we know that the PI is ultimately responsible for those decisions, it’s how the project is managed on a daily basis that matters. This is where the rubber meets the road, and how we ensure that the project is well managed from start to finish, a “controlled burn” rather than an inferno that has a spectacular cost share before the project is finished.

The Scale of the Project Doesn’t Matter: The Strategies are the Same

  1. Know your PI – Structure support mechanisms around his or her needs (More experienced? More challenging to work with? Adjust these strategies accordingly).
  2. Excellent pre-award work which produces awarded budgets to measure spending against.
  3. Regular, consistent meetings with PI’s that are structured, scheduled, and responsive and include financial reports. (Track spending on a monthly basis over project year against budget.)
  4. Milestone calendar to plan activities for award.
  5. Consistent monitoring of financials, including subcontractors and consultants, alerting PI’s to any issues.
    • Regular (quarterly) review of salary and effort with alert to PI of any issues on a timely basis.
    • Plan and prepare regular communications with sponsor including progress reports, no-cost extensions, and financials as indicated by the milestone calendar and monitoring.
  6. Close award on time as indicated.

Does This Look Familiar? It Should!

Regular, structured sponsored project management is the key to keeping financials on track. Scheduling meetings with the PI, providing regular reports that are easy to maintain and working against a milestone tracker (no surprises, no drama) is key. There’s always going to be something you’ll need to catch up on, but you’ll get 90% of it, and  your PI’s will be really happy that you’re on top of their expenses.

Schedule conference calls with subcontractor administrators, put reminders on your calendar for when reports are due (30 or 45 days in advance). Build in as much success as you can.

Ok, That’s Fine, But How Do I Monitor My Accounts?

Awesome question! There are definitely tips and hints that help you monitor your accounts, spend appropriately, and spot potential problems early.

  1. Salary is 60-70% of the expense on most awards.

    • Salary and effort reporting is the place to spend most of your time. Find out how to run your department suspense report; make sure your PI’s time on sponsored projects are always extended and accurate. Ensure that staff time charged to the project makes sense (staff are continuing to work on the projects). Make sure that salary is encumbered at the correct planned effort for the remainder of the project period (after effort is certified, a journal can correct the encumbered salary). It is a huge mistake NOT to encumber salary for the entire project period and we see departments lose F&A because of this.
  2. Look for charges:

    • Clinical trial without human participant expenses?
    • Laboratory based study with no supplies?
    • Allocation methods on community based research tend to be an ongoing area of concern.
  3. Burn rates for studies are rarely even, and depend on the type of research. Develop a “yardstick” for your investigators (such as more than 35% in the project year at 6 months) and use it to determine which studies need further attention.
  4. Use the financial reports available to you – summary reports really help.
    Northwestern has the GM-044 that gives the entire portfolio of a department and the GM-060 which gives an investigators portfolio of projects – all of the current balances! You can evaluate quickly the burn rate and see if there is something you’d like to look into further.
  5. Remember you’re up against 70 days – not 90. Any adjustments that are needed for effort, salary, or to apply or remove charges need to occur before the 90 day mark, and even if everything goes well, it takes time for everyone within the University to process the changes and do their jobs, and we do appreciate our colleagues who help us serve our investigators successfully.
  6. Prioritize, and ask for help. There’s a lot of work to do and sometimes its tough, but it can’t be ignored. Reach out, get help and get it done. Report your successes and reward yourself for keeping things moving, and asking for help when you don’t know how to do something, because you’re learning something new, and that’s how you get better and better!

The Doctor Is In: Giving Your Sponsored Projects a Financial Physical

Spring is in the air! Buds are on the trees, birds are singing and Deans are budgeting up a storm!

It’s budget season, as we prepare for the new academic year and begin to review how well this one is going. And we all know what that means. We’re going to be reviewing our sponsored research accounts.

How well are your sponsored research accounts doing? Can you tell at a glance?

The Doctor is In: Giving Your Sponsored Projects a Financial Physical

Many research administrators have multiple responsibilities – that is, they are involved in some aspect of business administration, which makes tracking financial information more difficult. Some research administrators are less comfortable with financial management and prefer pre-award. All of us need quick and easy ways to manage sponsored projects to make sure they are doing well and staying on track.

Three requirements for a successful project to maintain good health:

  1. University and sponsor guidelines are always followed with regard to purchasing, acquiring and managing equipment, animals, managing personnel, processing expenses, and notifying the sponsor of all changes on the project, etc.
  2. The principal investigator manages all financial transactions, hiring, purchasing and acquiring of research resources.
  3. All financial documentation and reporting is established, maintained and performed in a timely manner.

To conduct a financial physical, four factors should be assessed to obtain an assessment of a project’s financial fitness:

  • What is the burn rate of the project on a monthly basis, and how is the project spending to date according to plan?
      The burn rate is how much a project spends on average per month (total budget for a year divided by 12).  The project may spend more or less in a given month, but when you consider than 70% of research costs are labor related, this is not a bad yardstick to use.
      The most important indicator is spending too slowly. Too much money in the last 90 days is a problem due to the need to request a carry forward, or simply not being able to justify spending excess funds at the end of an award year.
  • Is the salary for all research staff matching certified effort for all quarters in the current year?
      Effort can vary at the beginning and at the end of an award, yet we often automatically charge an award the same budgeted amount throughout, so we need to make sure to adjust payroll after a PI has certified their effort to make sure that the award is charged correctly. This has to be done every 90 days.
  • Are supplies/expenses hitting the award? Are they allowable and are they being charged to the right account codes?
      Failure to spend an award, or not charge the right account codes can be viewed by the sponsor as not performing the work. The progress report has to match the financials – it’s important to make sure that the supplies and expenses are charged to the right project. In basic science labs, lab personnel need to be informed when new projects start, so they can charge supplies to the right accounts. It’s easy to forget to do this and it costs departments thousands of dollars.
  • Has the project met its milestones to date and does the project spending to date match the milestones currently planned?
      This one is straightforward, but key – and it’s why the financial management of sponsored projects is so much fun! This work relates directly to the project outcomes and the science. It’s all got to match and report out together, and be timely.

Of course, detecting any problems, you can address them in a timely manner. Most importantly, identifying issues will allow you to determine systems that will prevent problems from arising in the future.

Most importantly – prevention is the best way to stay healthy, and excellent budgets and tracking and management systems can help keep your projects in the best shape to begin with. We’ll talk more about this in the coming weeks!